Epic Games has filed suit against Google over alleged antitrust violations, just hours after seeing Fortnite dropped from the both the Google Play Store and iOS App store and filing a similar lawsuit against Apple. Epic’s complaint alleges that Google’s payment restrictions on the Play Store constitute a monopoly, and thus a violation of both the Sherman Act and California’s Cartwright Act.
Epic’s hit game Fortnite was removed from the Google Play Store earlier today.
“Twenty-two years later, Google has relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought”
Where the Apple complaint opened with a description of the company’s iconic 1984 ad, Epic’s complaint against Google focuses on that company’s now-infamous “Don’t Be Evil” mantra. “Twenty-two years later, Google has relegated its motto to nearly an afterthought,” the complaint alleges, “and is using its size to do evil upon competitors, innovators, customers, and users in a slew of markets it has grown to monopolize.”
Outside of the colorful opening, the two primary charges are identical to Epic’s suit against Apple: monopoly control over the distribution of software to phones, and monopoly control over payment systems within that software. In Google’s case, Epic is specifically concerned about the Google Play Store’s powerful role as a distributor of Android apps, and the Play Store’s requirement that hosted apps use Play Store Billing for any in-app purchases.
That case is more difficult to level against Google, which controls Android software less strictly than Apple does for iOS. Android has long allowed for the installation of third party app stores, including Epic’s own Epic Games App. Apps can also be sideloaded through direct links, without the involvement of an app store.
For years, Fortnite for Android was primarily available through this kind of sideloading. The app finally arrived on the Google Play Store in April, overcoming longstanding concerns over the Play Store policy of taking 30 percent of all in-app purchases. “After 18 months of operating Fortnite on Android outside of the Google Play Store, we’ve come to a basic realization,” the company said at the time, “Google puts software downloadable outside of Google Play at a disadvantage.”
Thursday’s lawsuit makes a similar case, arguing that Google has established the Play Store as the only viable distribution method for Android apps. “Notwithstanding its promises to make Android devices open to competition, Google has erected contractual and technological barriers that foreclose competing ways of distributing apps to Android users, ensuring that the Google Play Store accounts for nearly all the downloads of apps from app stores on Android devices.”
Reached for comment, Google emphasized that Fortnite had been removed from the Play Store for violating clear and pre-established rules. “For game developers who choose to use the Play Store, we have consistent policies that are fair to developers and keep the store safe for users,” a representative said. “While Fortnite remains available on Android, we can no longer make it available on Play because it violates our policies. However, we welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with Epic and bring Fortnite back to Google Play.”
Update August 13th, 9:51PM ET: Updated with statement from Google.